Lesson Learned From A Fortune Cookie

Who would have thought that a strip of paper inside a stale, overly sweet lump of dough could have such an impact

Lately I’ve found myself filled with crippling levels of personal uncertainty. After years of being confident to the point of cockiness in the field of online publishing, I’ve found myself cowering in the light of difficulties coming from my new career path.

I had brought my cockiness and my arsenal of marketing knowledge to the table in order to turn the business of a struggling sandwich shop around. Within just a few months, I’m very proud to say that business literally tripled. If there’s something I know how to do well, it’s drive attention to an idea, a product, a brand (there’s that cockiness I was talking about). I was floating on a cloud of accomplishment.

Sure I had not made any money yet personally, but that was not the point. The point was to rebuild the company’s brand reputation so that the potential to make money would be more obtainable. Taking the business from losing money to breaking even was just the first step. I thought for sure that making the company profitable would be a no-brainer.

And then it happened.

Business stalled.

For a couple of months we just weren’t moving forward with the same momentum that we had been. With the summer coming (our slowest time of the year), this was not the time for growth to slow in any way. Suddenly I felt myself filled with a kind of doubt that could wind up killing the business altogether. What was I doing? I had no idea what, if anything I could do to make things better.

In an effort to turn things around, I started making a list of options for fixing this problem. The list ranged from rational to drastic measures. I could go to a bank and borrow money. Use that money to renovate and hire people. Or I could sell the business. Let someone else shoulder the burden. Or fuck it, why bother. That’s just more stress for me to deal with. I could just close the doors and walk away.

As the list started to spiral out of control into a list of reasons to quit, I took a break.

I walked up to my local Chinese takeout joint and satisfied a craving for boneless spareribs and pork fried rice. I rarely eat the fortune cookie and even more rarely believe the fortune. However, this time I found myself desperate for answers. I punched the cookie to shatter it. I reached for the sliver of paper hoping it would shed some light on my life.

Then I read these words:

OK, I know this is kinda stupid, but those simple words really helped me to relax. I could feel every muscle in my body release from their knots and a smile came across my face. And in an instant I found myself open to possibilities I had not considered before. By simply accepting that there will always be things that I don’t know made me feel better.

Sometimes knowing the things you can’t do is more effective than knowing the things you can do. So now, I’ve been able to think more clearly about the future of my business. I’ve begun negotiations with money people, planning people, zoning people, all sorts of people that can help me get thru this.

I’m happy to say that the feeling that I should give up is gone. I’ve let my inhibitions about my limitations go and can now concentrate on the final goals rather than stressing over how to get the work done. After all, that’s what all these other experts are for.

Now let’s see what comes of this.

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